Study To Be Conducted On The African Green Monkey

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Government is preparing to undertake a study of the African Green Monkey (Cholocebus aethiops) in Barbados to gather information on its population size and behaviour patterns to inform future policy decisions.

Environmental Officer in the Ministry of Environment and Drainage, Kim Downes Agard, said there was a need to conduct a census of the monkey population to determine whether or not the number of green monkeys on the island was increasing, or if they were simply more visible after being driven from their natural habitats because of developments across the country.

"We cannot speculate as to whether the population has increased or decreased and put a management plan in place. We need to have the data to support any recommendations," she stated.

Ms. Downes Agard said the study would utilise local consultants, and involve tracking of monkeys fitted with radio transmitters to monitor their movement, and the preparation of recommendations based on those findings.

The census is also expected to inform a review of the bounty system and relevant legislation to make recommendations regarding the shooting of the monkeys especially as it relates to the threat of human health.

However, the study is yet to get off the ground as efforts are still being made to find someone willing to track the monkeys, fit them with the collars and release them without injury.

Ms. Downes Agard explained that Government was currently working with a company to develop a proposal for the commencement of the study.

The first assessment of the size of the monkey population in Barbados was done in 1980 at the start of the Monkey Crop Damage Control Programme, established to assist farmers who suffered crop damage by monkeys.

The programme was operated by the Barbados Primate Research and Wildlife Reserve and involved exporting green monkeys for the production and testing of the polio vaccine.

African Green Monkeys are listed under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), which requires that those involved in their trade have a permit for export.

However, the Environmental Officer pointed out that there was also a need to monitor how many monkeys were exported because Barbados has a significant trade in this species.

CITES undertakes trade reviews of species in Appendix II with high trade levels. Appendix II of CITES includes species that are considered threatened and may become endangered unless trade is strictly regulated, with an export permit from the country of export being required.

Species listed under Appendix II include the African Green Monkey, the Red-Footed Tortoise, the Queen Conch and the West Indian Mahogany.

Ms. Downes Agard stressed that it was, therefore, essential for Barbados to undertake a programme of action to ensure that the levels of monkeys traded was sustainable.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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